From Carl Hisiro
The first time I ever attended Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church after moving from Charlottesville, Virginia, was sometime in the winter of 1980-81. I remember meeting Father Dan in the back of the church after the service as I was on my way out, and he introduced himself to me. The first thing I asked him after our introduction was, “Do you have a softball team?” and Father responded, “no.” I then asked, “Do you want one?” Father said yes and the rest is history. I immediately went to work forming a team to play that spring of 1981 in a local church league, and Christ the Saviour fielded a team for 38 straight years, winning 11 league championships along the way. Father Dan played on that first team and for several years thereafter, and all three of his sons played as well in those early years. Father Dan always supported the team as he saw it as a great way to bring the players closer to the church and for many, it did.
From John & Nadzia Schilling
I was raised Roman Catholic with a Lutheran father and Roman Catholic mother and loved my religion. When Nadzia and I got married and we moved to Harrisburg, she went to Christ The Saviour and I went to St. Margaret’s in Penbrook. I was technically excommunicated for marrying outside the church at Nadzia’s church in South River. Johnny was born and I found myself going to both Mass and Liturgy on Sundays. I went to the priest at St. Margaret’s and explained and he obtained absolution from the Bishop for me to start receiving communion again at St. Margaret’s. Then enters Father Dan. As I got to know Farther Dan, somehow; I do not know how; I got onto a path to become Orthodox. Father Dan gave me a book to read and said we could talk and proceed after I read the book about becoming Orthodox. I do not read books; have not completely read a book since graduating college in 1973. Reading a book about how to worship God did not make sense or seem important to me after 12 years of Catholic schooling. Father Dan kept on asking how I was doing with my book on Orthodoxy. I kept saying OK for a while. Finally, I told Father I skimmed the book but am not a book reader. I was not ready for a book quiz. Father Dan said, “Are you ready to become Orthodox?” I said yes. He said something to the effect “Let’s do it” and it was done. An incredible journey never forgotten.
Nadzia was out and I was home alone with Johnny one evening when the phone rang. Remember as if it were yesterday. “John, this is Father Dan. I have a question for you, “Would you and Nadzia like to adopt a child?” Without pause, I said “Yes, Father.” Father Dan … “There is one condition …the child must be raised Orthodox.” Without pause, I said, “No problem, Father.” At the time, I was not Orthodox although I attended Christ The Saviour with Nadzia and Johnny. I said when Nadzia gets back, I would talk to her and she would call him back. The conversation lasted about 2-3 minutes. An incredible journey never forgotten.
Nadzia and I are at a Church Anniversary Banquet in Steelton many years ago. Bishop Herman was speaking. Bishop Herman said he had a problem with something at our church that he had to discuss with Father Dan … something Father Dan caused to happen. Bishop Herman describes the phone conversation with Father Dan weaving back and forth … not going the way Bishop Herman had anticipated or wanted it to go. The only thing that was made certain at the end of the conversation was that he, Bishop Herman, was the cause of the problem, not Father Dan. An experience never forgotten.
I am at home one Sunday after church when the phone rang. Remember as if it were yesterday, “John, this is Father Dan. Will you go with me downtown for an anti-abortion rally? I want someone to go with me. Without pause, I said “Yes, Father.” Father Dan and I are standing along the road on Front Street with Pro Life signs. Cars were honking their horns at us pro and con. Some would slow down to curse at us using the F word. An experience never forgotten.
At Council Meetings years ago. Father Dan would often have an idea or something he wanted to do. It would often be “out of the blue, unexpected, unpopular, challenging, etc.” The frustration of Council was open, obvious, and vocal. Father Dan never argued or got upset but he was persistent and somehow, someway, he was generally able to do what he proposed and proceed with council approval. Afterwards, Council members would often remark, “How did that just happen?” An experience never forgotten.
Father Dan’s Annual Candlelight “Jesus being judged” monologue on Good Friday. An experience never forgotten.
Father Dan … A man of God… a man for all seasons, all people, all the time. An experience never forgotten.
One of my most memorable moments with Father Dan is something I cannot fully remember … if that makes any sense. It does not and it has haunted me for years. It was a funeral on a dark Friday Evening in which Father Dan gave a homily for a longstanding parishioner. Father Dan was sitting in for Father Stephen that evening. Father Dan’s homily left attendees in awe. I cannot remember which funeral it was but remember Father Dan telling a story of life akin to a train ride. We board the train at birth, see others board and step down from the train. The train ride is full of joy, sorrow, expectations. As it approaches a wide river ahead, it becomes obvious that there is no bridge crossing the river. Someone on the train asked, “How are we going to get to the other side?” A child says not to worry … and that is where my mind goes blank. I cannot remember what Father Dan said at that point that evening. I do remember walking out to the parking lot to my car and bumping into Joanne Wevodau and saying, “Father Dan really has it yet after all these years. That was an incredible homily.” Joanne was thinking the same. It is fitting to remember what I can at this time. Father Dan was on that train crossing the river without a bridge this week and he is on the other side. We do not know how he got there or exactly where that is but for sure he is in a place of brightness, a place of repose where all sickness, sorrow, and suffering have fled away. We hope and look forward to being with you again someday, Father Dan. Perhaps you will share that homily with us again in a place where all is known and never forgotten.
We love you and our knowing you was a journey and an experience never forgotten.
From Lorie DiClemente
Fr. Dan gave a lot of sermons that caused me pause for thought. However, two of his sermons have changed how I approach things in everyday life. The first was when he posed a question to us. If someone were to put you on trial for being a Christian, would you be convicted? I strive daily to make the answer to this question a yes. Secondly, he once stated that when we entered heaven, God would not ask who we slept with, but did we feed the hungry? Help the poor? Visit the sick and prisoners? I try to be mindful of others and their physical needs and to provide assistance where I can. However, I am falling short on visiting prisoners.
When Gary and I were going to marry, we had hoped to be wed at Christ the Saviour, not spend the night together, and marry in front of family and friends the next day at St. Joan of Arc. Father Dan was fine with this arrangement, but the Catholic Monsignor went crazy with the idea, saying that he could not do this, as he was certifying that we had not married before. I called Father Dan in tears, who called the Catholic Diocese. The next day, the Monsignor called and said that we could go ahead with our original plan. We did not. Instead, the night before the wedding, Father Dan blessed our rings and marriage. Father Dan and Matushka came to the wedding. At the reception, I looked out and saw Father Dan, Matushka and the Monsignor sitting together, eating, drinking and laughing. Watching them made me realize what a political rift our religions shared.
Father Dan had such a dry wit. While usually looking serious and stoic, he was always warm and inviting. He liked to laugh. He loved music. He took Matushka sledding when they were in their late 70s!
Father Dan surely has been "convicted" of being a Christian!
From Molly Pylypciw
Around the time the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred (I was about 8 years old), Fr. Dan had a comforting message for our anxious community. There were concerns about more terrorist attacks, perhaps surrounding the nuclear power plant in Middletown. On Sunday, Fr. Dan announced very calmly, but affirmingly, that if a disaster ever occurred locally, we would all “meet at the church first, decide on a plan, and go from there.”
This idea of meeting at the church first, stuck with me. Hearing this message as a child planted the seed that church is a safe place of stability, recentering, and refuge. As I got older, this grew into a deep love and affinity for the church.
Coming to the church countless times during moments of distress, uncertainty, and anxiety and finding solace and peace, further reinforced my affection for the church. Now that I am an adult, I continue to turn to the church (“The Church” and “the church”) for stability and recentering.
Other Fr. Dan Stories
- A recent and favorite conversation with Fr. Dan involved a discussion about our string quartet. The Rose Quartet (named by Sasha Ressetar) was established and led by Fr. Dan. Monica and Nathan Jekel, Sophia Ressetar, and I were members. We performed traditional classical music, scores from contemporary films, and Fr. Dan’s instrumental arrangement of “Oh Lord, Save Thy People.” Fr. Dan and I were reminiscing about our performances, and with a big grin on his face (noticeable even under his face mask) he elbowed me gently and said, “We were somethin’ else!”
- Fr. Dan was extremely supportive of my trip to the Holy Land. We talked a lot before my trip, and he told me stories about his own visit to Jerusalem. One of my favorite stories is a humorous one: He was at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and set his bag down to take a picture of something. When his bag was discovered unattended, the whole area was shut down and evacuated while the military investigated the contents of the bag and searched the area for security threats. I remembered that story on my own trip when the priest with us set his bag down to take a closer look at something. I offered to carry it for him to prevent a repeat of Fr. Dan’s incident.
- Until recently, Fr. Dan had a paper route. He would deliver papers every morning- including Sunday mornings. He joked about what a sight it would be for people to see someone in clergy clothes delivering papers on Sunday mornings.
- When Fr. Dan would celebrate the Liturgy himself, he would come out from the altar during the singing of the Creed and face the congregation, encouraging us to sing.
- Fr. Dan filled many roles, one of which was an Orthodox matchmaker. He had successfully set up several couples who are now married.
- When my dad received word that my grandfather died, the first person he called was Fr. Dan. Fr. Dan responded in a very matter-of-fact way, “Okay, I’ll see you at the church in 20 minutes... you’re coming, right?” When we got there, he served a panikhida for my grandfather and, afterwards, came right over to my brother and me to see how we were doing. It was such a loving gesture.
From Andrea Yannone
I have so many remembrances of Fr. Dan. He married Louie and me, baptized Lara, buried my Dad, and of course was a friend and spiritual advisor to my Mom. There are some photos around of the "girls" road trip to the All-American Council in St. Louis that include Fr. Dan...my Mom, Effie, and June. What a trio!!
When we talk about Fr. Dan, always one thing comes up--he reminded me to practice my violin/viola...a lot! When I went to confession, EVERY TIME, he'd say, "if you don't practice one day you'll know it, if you don't practice 2 days your teacher will know it, and if you don't practice for 3 days your audiences will know it!! He continued that mantra in practically every conversation with me well into my adulthood... he said that to Louie and Lara, too!
I remember our balalaika orchestra from the mid-late 70s. Sue Dotsey was in the group, as well as Daria Hubiak, my Dad, and Fr. Dan was the leader. Our big tune was Lara's theme from Dr. Zhivago, my Dad's favorite. And yes, Lara Baez is named for Lara's theme!
Fr. Dan working with the Harrisburg Symphony, again late 70s when I was playing in the group as a HS student: They did the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, and many people don't know that there's a choral section...rarely added. Not sure who assembled the chorus, but Fr. Dan rehearsed and conducted them...a bunch of Hospodi Polumli (decidedly NOT pronounced with a "g"!!). It was glorious--full orchestra and chorus!!
From Levi Jekel
A few Fr. Dan stories that come to mind...
1) I was serving in the altar for what must have been a weekday Liturgy back before the Mission had its own feast day services. Fr Dan handed me a tiny robe instructing me to give it to Matushka Anastasia [Hojnicki] for Nicholas. I obediently took the robe from Father and walked out of the altar very sheepishly already knowing what the response would be. Sure enough, Matushka very graciously turned me down, explaining that Nicholas was not even potty trained yet.
2) Around the time that Bill Clinton got impeached, he prayed for "The president of the United States, who is in big trouble, and all civil authorities..." during the Divine Liturgy.
3) When traveling with Fr. Dan (altar boy retreats, house blessings, etc...), we would often stop at McDonalds for a bite to eat at some point. Fr. Dan would always lead us in standing at our table and singing the Troparian for the day in the middle of McDonalds!